Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Giving the kids some space

I posted this as a comment over on Becoming Minimalist and, since it was a pretty long comment, I decided it could become my own blog post. Of course, I've edited it a little, because the writing is never finished. :~)

My kids are 13 and 11 and I've purged their rooms about once a year for their lives to date, including twice for moves where I've gotten rid of multiple Hefty bags of stuff. Amazingly, stuff keeps accumulating.

I recently read a quote somewhere about letting kids have some freedom of expression in how they live, including a messy space if they want it, so this year I've decided to let them live in their own space with these caveats:

1. No food in bedrooms. Also, no old food wrappers that were left in pockets. If bugs might like it, it cannot come upstairs.

2. I only do laundry that is in hampers (I will *not* pick things up off the floor or go searching for dirty clothes). So, if you want it for school, get it in a hamper or wash it yourself.

The fact that I still do their laundry is mighty nice, I know, although I didn't start doing most of my laundry until college (thanks, Mom). This niceness may end if I get back to work full time.

3. The floor must be *completely* clear once every two weeks for the cleaning lady so she can vacuum, dust and make beds. I don't care where it goes, but the stuff has to be hidden. :~)

I tried living without Patricia for a few months, but I find I just do not have the physical ability (ask me sometime about my early menopause and my lousy back) to do serious housework anymore. Serious planning went into making budget room for her. After Scott, she is the number one person I want to make happy.

4. I just remembered another: Homework is done downstairs in the common area so that I can monitor it being done and watch it go back into backpacks, which also live downstairs. This will probably work as both are in middle school now, plus they both prefer to have company while doing almost *everything*.

To implement the above, I went through and cleared all the floors in their rooms by putting everything in clear bins and stacking them up in the closet and around the edge of the rooms. I offered to help them sort any time they want, but I warned them that my style is to toss A LOT a la Peter Walsh, so no one has taken me up on this offer yet.

I don't know yet how this social experiment is going to work. It's been almost two weeks and I have to just close the doors to their rooms (especially the girl with clothes EVERYWHERE) to avoid looking at the mess. I didn’t come to a simplified life until my late 20’s and minimalism until my late 30’s, so it may take a while until they drink the kool aid with me.


CMPetersen said...

Can I jus say wow to the willpower it must take you to ignore the mess? This is just the first step. The good news is that they will never know they want order until they find out stuff doesn't magically get organized and purged every year. A couple more years and having no space in the room or wanting to load boxes into the garage should cure the urge to create havoc and disorder.

And Patricia, best move ever. She's totally worth your sanity.

Laura said...

I would have loved to have some freedom with my room as a teenager! Of course I get it that my mom wanted me to keep it clean, but people do have different conceptions about clean... To me, a little mess is cozy and I really don't even notice it.

I remember thinking: "Why is mom always cleaning up, even when it's already clean?"

Noelle said...

Laura, I was fortunate that my parents were pretty good about this. (I realized after posting this that my rules 1-3 were my mom's implied rules).

Even as a child, I liked to have surfaces clear - I just had so much junk that it ended up stuffed in drawers, under the bed, or in the closet. As an teen/early adult, I started just hiding stuff in boxes, often in the basement. It wasn't until my 30's that I decided that I could just LET STUFF GO. I don't know when or if this realization will hit them, but I'd like them to have some mental room to work it out. We'll see how I do...

Laura said...

Thanks so much for your comments in my blog!
And about your novel.. Wow, I'm really glad if I had any part in inspiring you, so sure, you can use the title! Any chance you could credit it to me, though?

Noelle said...

Laura, yes, I will absolutely credit you with the title idea - and if the novel ever reaches the light of day, there, too.

Laura said...

I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of a novel it will become...